200 farmers to protest outside Parliament from July 22: Samyukt Kisan Morcha
Farmers protesting three agricultural laws say that will begin demonstrating outside Parliament on July 22 as part of a new push to force the government to scrap a set of legislation enacted last year. Farm unions have been holding meetings to work out logistics and finalise strategies to intensify their agitation and coordinate movement of farmers from various states.
According to a plan announced by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a platform of farm unions spearheading the protests since November last year against the three laws, nearly 200 farmers will protest outside Parliament every day during the Monsoon session.
The SKM also said that farm organisations and like-minded groups will hold countrywide protests against rising fuel prices on July 8.
Parliament is set to convene on July 19 for its upcoming Monsoon session. Farm unions say they will soon dispatch a letter to all Opposition parties and lawmakers, urging them to raise the issue of the three farm laws during the entire session, said Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait.
Farmers on tractors are likely to file into the Capital on July 21 evening. Accommodation arrangements have been beefed up at all current protest sites, Dharmendra Singh of the BKU said.
Thousands of farmers have pitched tents at five sites near Delhi’s borders -- Singhu, Ghaziabad, Tikri, Dhansa and Shahjahanpur (on the Rajasthan-Haryana border) -- from where they have been carrying on their protests. They have also constructed a permanent weatherproof shelter for arriving farmers at the Tikri site, said Dharmendra Singh, a member of the BKU.
The farmers’ march towards Parliament is sure to be resisted by police because demonstrations near Parliament are not allowed, setting the stage for a potential standoff.
“It will be a peaceful protest. Nearly 200 protesters will demonstrate every day outside Parliament. The government is not interested in talking to farmers because the government isn’t being run by any party but by companies,” Rakesh Tikait, the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), said.
On January 26, a rally taken out by farmers to celebrate Republic Day turned violent, as protesters clashed with policeman and breached Red Fort in the national capital. Farm unions had then called off a planned march to Parliament.
Cultivators from various towns and villages in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have joined those already protesting in many of sites. A large convoy arrived from Pilibhit inUttar Pradesh before moving to various sites on Monday, DharmendraSingh said.
“These farm laws are black laws. They must be taken back. Farmers will be very peaceful while protesting. The violence that broke out during the Republic Day in Delhi was a conspiracy to defame farmers,” said Joginder Singh Urgrahan of the BKU Ekta Ugrahan group, which represents a large section of farmers in Punjab.
The farmers want three agricultural laws repealed, and say that the legislation will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and jeopardise their livelihoods.
The laws, broadly, seek to minimise regulations in trade of farm produce, permit private traders to stockpile large quantities of commodities for future sales, and set new national rules for contract farming.
The government has said the laws would bring competition and widen farmers’ access to markets. Allowing firms to stock large quantities of food commodities will incentivise them to invest in supply and storage, the government has argued.
Farmers say the laws will force them to sell to corporate giants with greater bargaining powers at poor prices instead of government-run markets, which offer assured prices for cereals.
Unregulated markets will ultimately lead to a collapse of regulated markets that offer minimum support prices (MSPs), farmers say, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has denied this will ever happen. MSPs are benchmark prices the government offers for farm produce, aimed at signalling a floor rate for private traders.
“The honourable agriculture minister has said that the government is willing to talk about all issues farmers may have except repeal of the laws. So our doors are open,” a farm ministry official, who was at the helm of previous rounds of talks between the government and farmers, said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “The government wants to turn our annadatas (providers of food) into bonded labourers. Farmers are demanding their rights and the laws should be repealed.”